Jamie Oliver inspired Asparagus Pasta

At the moment Australian grown spring asparagus are $1.00 per bunch! Yep, that’s correct…$1.00. And yes, they are beautiful. I do hope the farmer is benefits from the high sales of asparagus. Imagine how much work goes into growing, picking and packing asparagus!

I picked up 4 bunches the other day and put them to great use in a pasta. This is a very simple pasta dish based on this one by Jamie Oliver. I love the way Jamie Oliver uses ingredients and the flavours he puts together. Rarely do I completely follow the recipe but take inspiration from the idea of the dish. The recipe asks for 1 bunch of asparagus but where is that going to go? Maybe in England the bunches are larger. Definitely use more even four!

Jamie Oliver inspired Asparagus Pasta

So take four bunches of asparagus. Snap the woody ends and throw away. Wash under running water. Chop off the tender tops (about 3 or 4 cm) and reserve for later. Slice up the rest.

Heat up a good glug of extra virgin olive oil and gently fry the slice up asparagus with about 200g chopped pancetta or bacon.

When the asparagus is tender, crush with a fork. Taste and season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. 

Jamie suggests egg tagliatelle which I didn’t have. These fusilli say “per i propri amici” – “for true friends”. What better true friends can a girl have than her family so fusilli for “true friends” it is.
Cook the pasta in plenty of boiling salted water.
Two minutes before the pasta is done throw in the asparagus tips.
Drain the pasta, reserving a little of the cooking water. Add the pasta (with the asparagus tips) to the pan of mashed asparagus goodness and toss to combine. Stir in as much parmesan cheese as you like and check the seasoning.
Serve and enjoy!

Multi Coloured Pasta – The Daring Kitchen July, 2016 Challenge

There is pasta and then there is PASTA. This is PASTA. Coloured with vegetable puree. Sliced and rolled until we have striped pasta. I had always wanted to make coloured pasta but I never thought of striped pasta until this.

Dulcie from The Taste Trail  challenges us at The Daring Kitchen to make our own patterned pasta from scratch. Dulcie had been developing all-natural rainbow pasta recipes for a couple of years and now thought she would share what she has learnt. Her famous last words were “I promise, it is not as complex as the end results would lead you to believe.”

You find Dulcie’s detailed instructions on the Daring Kitchen site. While I based my pasta on her recipe, I found my juicer wouldn’t produce enough vegetable juice so I simply used the very fine puree of roasted beetroot and steamed spinach to colour the pasta. I also used a different method to achieve the stripes.

For each portion of dough, I used 200g pasta flour with one egg and a couple of tablespoons of fine vegetable puree until it came together into a smooth and pliable dough.

Once the pasta was made and rested in the refrigerator overnight, each colour was rolled slightly with a rolling pin then passed through the pasta machine rolling and folding until it was well worked, smooth and each a uniform shape. I joined the prepared pasta one on top of the other dampening with a little water ensure they stuck well.

Then the portion was cut evenly in two…

…and layered up!

From this I cut thick slices, which were rolled a little by hand before being passed through the pasta machine.


I filled my fresh pasta with ricotta, parmesan and greens from the garden, such as silverbeet (chard), rocket and parsley.

And prepared colourful ravioli.

A quick cook in boiling, salted water.

Before being tossed with loads of butter, garlic, basil and parmesan cheese. YUMMO!


Homemade Orecchiette with Bacon and Broccoli

Orecchiette have been on my list of pasta to make for a long time and this Sunday was the day! At a local restaurant some time ago I had order a dish of spelt orecchiette which were delicious and thinking of the spelt flour I had just purchase, I thought spelt orecchiette were just the thing. However some online research did not deliver a spelt orecchiette recipe instead the pasta used for orecchiette seemed to be a simple semolina flour and water dough. So let’s not rock the boat…we will stick with tried and true….for the time being, anyway!
Taking a look at the method to hand make orecchiette looked simple…just drag the knife over the little pieces of dough and turn inside out. Easy! Hmmm, so I thought but instead I struggled while my daughter who always masters hand made pasta, ( I think she has an Italian nonna within! ) had no problems. It is tricky. There is no denying that but after a couple (read “lots”) of failures, success was mine! Very excited to produce our first orecchiette!
With some local organic streaky bacon, fresh broccoli and good Parmesan our Sunday lunch was fit for a King (or Queen)
Orecchiette – adapted from here
3 cups fine semolina flour
1 cup plain flour
good pinch salt
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 warm water ( 105F to 115F or 40C to 45C)
1 tablespoon (20mls) extra virgin olive oil
Place the flours and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer. Turn the machine on slow and drizzle in 1/2 cup of water. Mix until thoroughly absorbed and the mixture is sandy – this could take 2 or 3 minutes. We need the flour to adsorb the water for as long as possible as this develops the gluten. Once we add the oil this inhibits the development of the gluten.
Drizzle in another 1/2 cup of warm water (it may need reheating) and continue to mix for 5 or 6 minutes. Drizzle in a 1/4 of a cup of warm water and keep mixing for another 5 minutes. By this stage if you machine is anything like mine it will be protesting! Drizzle in the oil and mix for a further 5 minutes. By now the mixture should start coming together and feel a bit like Play Dough. If it doesn’t add in a little more water, 1 tablespoon at a time. 
Once it is ready flatten into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Allow to rest for 1 hour.
Now for the fun part! Take golf ball size pieces of dough and roll a long rope of dough. Keep the rest of your dough covered. The dough should be a little bit thinner than your fingers maybe 1/2 an inch or so in diametre. Now cut the rope into little pillows of only about 1/2 an inch or less. As you go you will learn to adjust the size according to the size of orecchiette you are making.
Take a butter knife or dinner knife, press firmly on one portion…
…draw the knife towards you causing the dough to curl…
…. you should end up with something that looks like this….
….with your fingers unfurl it and turn it inside out shaping it over your thumb. And, just like magic you have made your first orecchiette!
 After a while you will have lots!
To serve with our freshly made orecchiette I turned to our local organic streaky bacon from Backfatters. The pigs at the Backfatter’s farm are very happy, heritage pigs that roam freely. I love that we have such premium quality at our doorstep.
So in a little extra virgin olive oil I sauteed the diced bacon and two finely chopped garlic cloves. After a little while a couple of spoonfuls of pine nuts and a finely sliced chilli followed.
While this happened I put a pot of salted water on to boil and prepared a large head of broccoli. Once the water was boiling the broccoli went in and cooked until just tender. Scooped out, draining all the water and straight into the frying bacon. The remaining water was brought back to the boil.
A little toss, 2 tablespoons of tomato passata and a splash of extra virgin olive brought the sauce together. No extra salt because the bacon is already quite salty.
Once the water returned to the boil all the pasta went in…yes, it’s a lot. The pasta probably boiled for about 5 minutes but just keep tasting it. You don’t want that floury taste and it still needs to have a bit of a bite. Then drain well.
Mix in the bacon and broccoli and a handful of good grated Parmesan cheese and there you have it…it’s a winner!

Hand made Pasta – Garganelli

Here in the southern hemisphere we are finally letting go of the hot summer and approaching cooler months. Though in my part of the world it just means gone is the oppressive humidity of a tropical summer and we welcome the cool, dewy mornings of the dry season that some people call winter. And it was on one such weekend morning that the idea for this pasta began. On the bookshelf is one of my favourites The Splendid Table by Lynne Rossetto Kasper, a wonderful collection of recipes from Emilia- Romagna, the homeland of my dear dad. It is here that I am inspired. The front cover shows a bowl of ribbed penne type pasta in a warming bowl of broth. Inside I find the recipe for garganelli.
Garganelli are traditionally made with a garganelli comb which you see here but also can be made with a clean comb and a pencil. On the morning in question I recalled seeing a ribbed gnocchi board in our local Italian deli, thinking this would serve the purpose I didn’t delay the purchase. Yep, along with a clean pencil, it worked!
The pasta recipe I used is flavoured with Parmigiano-Reggiano, nutmeg and black pepper adapted from The Splendid Table.

(adapted from The Splendid Table)

4 large eggs
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon each freshly ground black pepper and nutmeg
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano- Reggiano cheese
3 cups all purpose flour

I use a food processor to combine and knead the ingredients. Then remove the pasta dough and knead it well for a further 5 minutes. Wrap in plastic and rest at room temperature for 1 hour.
I used a pasta machine to roll the dough thinly but you could use a rolling pin to roll out portions of dough. Cut the thinly rolled pasta dough into 1 or 1 1/2 inch squares.

Place the square with the point facing you and roll to mark with a clean pencil.

Flick the point closest to you over the pencil and carefully roll the dough up…

pressing to seal at the end.

It only takes a little bit of practice to soon have a garganelli production in place.

Cook garganelli in simmering chicken broth for a brief two or three minutes or until just al dente. Serve with lashing of Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Hand made pasta – Busiati

Pasta has always been an integral part of my life. As children, my sister and I always helped with the pasta making and I have endeavoured to always include my children as well.
Whether helping to fill the tortellini or ravioli or hanging fettucini to dry over the broomsticks resting on the lounge room chairs or curling nests of fidelini on the homemade drying rack which consisting of insect screen material pulled and nailed tight over a frame, pasta and pasta making was just part and parcel of growing up in an Italian family.
Well, that is, with the assistance of the wonderful pasta machine to roll the pasta into long thin perfect lengths and further more it was always egg pasta.
When my husband’s 98 year old grandmother passed away a little over a year ago I inherited her pasta rolling pin -36 inches long and over 2 inches in diameter! Yep, it sure is one mean rolling pin!
With it’s discovery, (because it had been put to rest long ago) resurface my father-in-law’s memories of the days of rolling pasta entirely by hand. He recalled that Nonna would roll and lift and turn the pasta until it was so long it hung well over the edges of the kitchen table and then it would be cut to shape for the pasta of the day. This task was performed each and every time pasta was on the menu which of course was generally every day.  As simple as it is, I treasure that rolling pin.
And so, my interest in handmade pasta grew.
This week I notice this wonderful pasta on one of my favourite blogs, Manu’s Menu. Busiati, Manuela tells us, is a traditional pasta from the Trapani area of Sicily. The name is derived from the “buso” which is a wooden stick from a plant growing abundantly in this area of Sicily used to form the pasta. Manuela suggests a knitting needle but I found a wooden skewer worked quite well. If you have never visited Manu’s Menu you are in for a treat of amazing Italian food and photo’s.
Busiati are made with a non egg pasta dough. For me, this is very new and I was a little apprehensive but the results speak for themselves. I used the measurements from “My Calabria” by Rosetta Costantino.
 Thanks Manuela for a great technique and guidance via your very clear tutorial to make my first handmade pasta!
560 g plain all purpose flour
170 ml lukewarm water ( you may need a little more)
Mix the flour and water in the bowl of your stand mixer or you can do it by hand. The dough should be firm but come together in a ball. If it seems dry add a few drops of water until it just comes together. Wrap in plastic  and rest for a least half an hour.Then the fun starts!

 Take a small amount of dough leaving the rest wrapped in the plastic. Roll a sausage shape a bit less the a centimetre thick. Place your wooden skewer at the end of the dough on an angle and press onto the dough slightly to stick and start rolling the skewer with your hands so the dough wraps around. Once wrapped roll the skewer backwards and forwards with your hands until the busiato thins and lengthens. Slide the busiato off the skewer with your hands and place it onto a slightly floured tray.

Your first busiato is made!

Continue in this manner creating many busiati.

Enlist diners to help with the task and in no time at all you busiati will all be prepared.

My teenaged daughter helped me with these and we both really enjoyed it and had a laugh learning to perfect our busiati. Actually she picked it up so quickly, I was learning the whole time!

When it comes to cooking the busiati be sure to salt your water really well as there is no salt in the dough. We cooked out busiati for 5 minutes but it was little to long. Our busiati were a little on the small side so probably tasting and testing at 3 minutes would have been better.

Served with a Pork Ragu and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese.
We had a great Sunday lunch!

Cheese and Potato Pierogi – A Baker’s Odyssey Personal Challenge #22

I always considered myself a carb freak. Bread with my meals, pasta is my comfort food and potatoes are always on the menu. But I think I have finally met my nemesis! Cheese and Potato Pierogi! Wow, carb overload!
Pierogi, like all good food, was the food of Polish peasants. I would imagine the cook of the home intending to warm and fill the bellies of her family. Perhaps not quite food for the tropics of Australia even if it is the middle of winter.
Continuing with my challenge of baking through A Baker’s Odyssey this recipe is found in the Savoury Pastries section. Greg Patent states that “Pierogi are perhaps the best known Polish dish in America”. 
Ok, now let me challenge my American readers.
I need feed back! 
How well ( or not so well) did I form the Pierogi?
Is this how you would eat Pierogi?
Tell me about your favourites ?

Cheese and Potato Pierogi

Makes 60 to 70 dumplings to serve 5 to 6
Print the recipe here!

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped medium fine
2 pounds/ a little less than 1 kg potatoes
12 ounces/340 grams ricotta cheese, drained overnight
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

4 cups allpurpose flour, plus more for rolling
1 1/2 cups warm water
1 large egg yolk
3 tablespoons olive oil

Make the filling first. Heat the oil and fry the onions until gently until golden brown and begining to caramelize about 10-15 minutes. Remove from heat.
Peel potatoes and cut into large chunks. Add to a pot of boiling salted water and cook until tender, about 20 minutes.
Drain potatoes and put through a ricer into a large bowl. Add the cheese, salt, pepper and cooked onions and mix well. This mixture can be made the day before. Keep refrigerated.
To make the dough. Put the flour into  large bowl and make a well in the centre. In a medium bowl stir the warm water, egg yolk and olive oil with a fork. Add liquid to the flour and mix to make a soft dough. Adjust with a little more water warm if necessary.
Knead on a floured surface for a few minutes. Then cover and let rest for 30 minutes.
To shape – cut the dough in half and keep the unused portion covered. Roll the dough on a floured surface until it is about 1/8 inch/ 3mm thick. Cup our circles with a 2 1/2inch/ 6.5cm cutter ( or thereabouts) Put a heaping teaspoon of filling into the centre of the circle and bring up the edges to cover the filling. Then crimp the edges in 4 or 5 places to give the pleated look. Set aside on a floured tray and continue with the remaining filling and dough.
To cook – bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Add 8 to 10 pierogi. If they settle to the bottom dislodge with a rubber spatula. When the pierogi float cook for 3 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon to an oil baking tray. Continue cooking remaining pierogi.
To serve, I gave the pierogi a quick fry in melted butter until slightly browned and added crisp bacon and caramelised onion. 

Pasta Estiva! My “go to” summer pasta dish.

Happy New Year!
This is my first post for 2012! There is much hope that 2012 will bring good times for our area which was hit by a cyclone and four floods in early 2011 and the repercussions were felt throughout the year. So far, the weather has been kind. Bright sunshine, occasional rain and humidity. A perfect tropical summer, as it should be!
Summer in North Queensland is hot and humid, quite often unbearably so! Necessary work is completed in the cool of the very early morning or evening and sometimes even then there is no relief.
As night falls, air conditioners can be heard like the humming of mosquitoes in the stillness of the night. And when the monsoonal rain starts there is no stopping it. Humidity is so thick it’s hard to breathe.
This is a time when cooking takes a turn. Fresh, cool and easily prepared. This dish, though not really a recipe, fits the bill.
I’ll call it my “Pasta Estiva” – Summer Pasta. Though it doesn’t really have a name. It’s just an idea which originated after a conversation with my Calabrian cousin. All that needs to be cooked is the pasta. In the time it takes to cook the pasta the “sauce” can be prepared.  If you can boil water, you can make Pasta Estiva.  Think of my choice of ingredients as a template. Alter the ingredients to suit your taste and that of your diners but remember to select best quality ingredients. I hope you enjoy as much as I do!
Pasta Estiva
Serves 4-6
500g pasta ( I like fusilli, the twirly one, but it’s your choice)
185g canned tuna, in oil Italian style
2 or 3 vine ripened tomatoes 
stuffed green olives
sundried tomatoes in oil
capers, to taste
dried oregano leaves
oil from the sundried tomatoes
red wine vinegar 
freshly cracked black pepper
Bring a large pot of water to the boil and salt it well. Cook the pasta according to the packet instructions. I like to taste a few minutes before the time is up to ensure it is not overcooked.
In the meantime, drain the tuna and place into a large bowl, breaking it up. Chop the tomatoes coarsely, slice the green olives and slice the sundried tomatoes. Place in the bowl with the tuna, mix well. Finely chop capers and mix into remaining ingredients. Sprinkle with oregano.
When the pasta is cooked, drain well and turn immediately into bowl with tuna and tomato mixture. Dress with oil from the sundried tomatoes, red wine vinegar and black pepper. Taste, and adjust seasoning if needed. Toss to combine well.
 Turn into large serving bowl or platter and sit back and accept the compliments!

Tortellini d’ Erbetta

  This is a pasta dish I made recently for my Dad’s 80th birthday lunch. It is a regional speciality from his home town of Piacenza, Italy. It highlights the region’s wonderful produce but we can quite successfully reproduce it here in North Queenland, Australia. Tortellini d’Erbetta translates literally to Short Grass Tortellini but of course, we use whatever delicious, leafy greens we have. I like silverbeet.
The cheese/silverbeet ratio is up to you. More of one, less of the other, as you please. 
The shape of the half moon is how we always make them. How small and delicate you make them is up to your expertise. They taste delicious just the same. I assure you once you try these you will be hooked!  
I usually make the filling the day before.
You will need 2 bunches silverbeet which you finely sliced and steam. Then all the water squeezed out by wringing in a clean teatowel ( I had about 450g silverbeet in the end)
600g fresh ricotta
2 eggs
200g grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (this is the best parmesan for this recipe, other good parmesan can be used but bear in mind the parmesan is the key to the flavour so get a really good one)
a little freshly grated nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste
Mix all the filling ingredients.
For the Pasta:
5 eggs
500g flour
Beat eggs. Heap the flour onto a work surface and make a well. Add into the well eggs and salt. Gradually incorporate the eggs. Knead well. Allow to rest for 1 hour.
Make the sauce or butter or whatever you want to call it while you wait.
250g butter
10 cloves garlic, chopped very fine
lots of fresh basil, finely sliced
more grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Melt butter with garlic allow to heat and flavour. Do not brown garlic
To make the tortellini:

Cut off a small piece of pasta dough and pass through the pasta machine rollers. Fold and roll through again several time until the pasta is smooth and supple. Gradually reduce settings of the rollers until the dough is quite thin, maybe the last or second last setting. Lay the strip of dough onto the work surface. Spoon little mounds, the size of a small walnut, along the length of the dough allow dough to be folded in half lengthwise covering each mound. Press the air out carefully from around the mounds of filling. Press firmly to ensure the tortellini are well sealed. With a pasta cutter or knife cut around each tortellini in a half moon shape. Set aside on a well floured tray while you prepare the remaining tortellini. The leftover dough is reincorporated in with the next lot of pasta dough to be rolled. Continue in this manner until all the pasta or filling is used up.
Now have a large pot of boiling, salted water ready. Place a few (10 or 15) tortellini, depending on the size of your pot into the boiling water. Stir gently so they don’t stick to the bottom and cook until al dente. It will only take a short time, maybe 3-5 minutes. Scoop out with and drain well. Place into warm serving dish, spooning over some sauce, sprinkle of basil and cheese. Keep warm. Continue cooking and dressing the tortellini. Serve and enjoy! Not for the diet conscious!

This served 12 of us generously as a pasta course… but then again, come to think of it we didn’t eat too much else after this! 

Broccoli Pasta

You get home late, everyone is hungry and the nearest take away resturant seems to be the obvious choice. But it doesn’t have to be.  I like this delicious, quick meal for times such as this. As long as you have a couple of broccoli heads in the refrigerator along with the pantry staples of pasta, garlic and bottled anchovies you have a great easy dinner. Top it off with fabulous parmesan reggiano or gran padano.  Buonissimo!
 The method is simple and variable to your taste. This is mine!
 Firstly take two heads of broccoli, break it into flowerettes and wash them well.
Put a large pot of water, well salted, on to boil. Meanwhile in a cold frying pan put a good 1/3 cup of extra virgin olive oil,  4 finely chopped cloves of garlic and 3 or 4 fillets of bottled anchovies. Slowly heat the pan up over the flame, crushing the anchovies until they melt into the mixture. At this point everyone should be gathering into the kitchen to find out what exactly is for dinner because it smells so good!
When your pot of water is boiling rapidly add the broccoli.
By now the anchovies will have melted and amalgamated well with the garlic and oil. Don’t burn your garlic! Add a spoonful of chopped chillies if you like heat.
When your broccoli is tender remove with a slotted spoon and add to your pan of oil, garlic and anchovies. Cook 500g pasta of choice in the same water that the broccoli was cooked in until al dente.
I always add a few spoonfuls of tomato passata but that is your choice. Simmer for a few minutes for the flavours to meld. Taste, always taste! Adjust the seasoning if needed – a grind of pepper will be a must!
Drain the pasta and mix with the broccoli sauce adding a good handful of parmesan. Please use a really good freshly grated cheese not the cardboard, smelly stuff the comes pregrated in cheese shakers!
Call everyone to the table and serve with extra parmesan.
 In our household this is enough for about 4 hungry people!